Just Below the Surface

November 28, 2016

By Emy Brubacher

The other day, we were cruising on our boat in the Mexico Gulf Coast. As we chugged along, I noticed small disturbances in the water’s surface just in front of us. Suddenly, we were in the midst of a field of jellyfish. Floating just below the surface, you cannot see these intriguing creatures until you are passing right over them.

Then a few minutes later, a group of dolphins broke through the surface and began leaping out of the water just a few feet from the boat. Over and over, they would jump up only to disappear somewhere into the depths beneath us.

When you are out on the ocean, the vast expanse can seem deceivingly isolated. Yet, it dawned on me that just beneath the surface, the waters are actually teeming with life.

It brought along thoughts of how we perceive others. We often tend to take things at face value and to judge each other by our words and actions. We forget that beneath the surface, is a whole life of experiences and influences that affect our reactions.

When the customer at Tim Horton’s comes up to the till to complain about the temperature of their coffee, they must be a pessimistic whiner. When a person butts in front of us at a line, it is easy to presume they must be a jerk. When a driver cuts us off, we attribute it to recklessness or stupidity.


Maybe that customer is a single mother who has not slept in nights because her baby is sick, yet she still has to leave every morning to go to work in order to feed her children. Tired…

Maybe the person cutting in line is distracted because they are awaiting news of biopsy reports and simply did not notice where the line ended. Worried…

Maybe the “crazy” driver was avoiding a pothole, shoulder checked and didn’t see the car in their blind spot. Really did try…

Not that there are acceptable excuses for people to be malicious, rude or disrespectful. But before we attribute one’s actions to negative traits, we need to stop and consider what else may be a factor.

Most of us face times when we react to a situation in a way that is against our “norm”. And we hope that others will understand something else is going on and give us a break. We hope that others recognize that we might just be “having a bad day” and don’t judge us based on those moments.

Or we act with pure intentions but the actions are misinterpreted by the others bias. And we hope they put aside their own perceptions to try to see things from your viewpoint.

So, to be fair, the next time someone offends or angers you, take a moment to try see beneath their surface.  


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Knowledge. Clarity. Action.